Washington, July 26 : President George W Bush and Senator John McCain have long been in agreement on major elements of US foreign policy, but now the Bush Administration's agreement to consider a "time horizon" for troop withdrawals from Iraq has led to divergent views, at least in the public.
The divisions within the Republican foreign policy establishment continue at a time when Obama is trying to establish his own international credentials.
Republicans worry that he is seizing the chance, helped with the boost from Bush, to command the American foreign policy stage.
On Friday, McCain said that the idea of a 16-month withdrawal, which Barack Obama supports, was "a pretty good timetable," although he included the caveat that it had to be based on conditions on the ground.
Republicans also say the Bush Administration's decision to authorise high-level talks with Iran and North Korea has undercut McCain's scepticism about engagement with those countries, leaving the perception that he is more conservative than Bush on the issue, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
Essentially, as the Bush Administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neo-conservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.
Whether the perception of McCain as being at odds with the Bush Administration is politically advantageous for him is a matter of debate among his supporters, but many of his more conservative advisers do not think it is a bad thing.
"There's no doubt, particularly as Bush has adopted policies in the direction of Obama, that that gives Obama bragging rights," said John R. Bolton, the Bush Administration's former ambassador to the United Nations.
"But if you believe as I do that this administration is in the midst of an intellectual collapse, it doesn't hurt McCain. Occasionally in politics it helps to be right," he added.
But other Republicans - the so-called foreign policy pragmatists, many of whom have come to view the Iraq war as a mistake - say the Bush Administration's policy shifts highlight the more confrontational nature of McCain's foreign policy, particularly in his approach toward Russia and his embrace on the Dalai Lama.